BHISHMA AND RAJADHARMA
KING'S ASSOCIATES AND COUNSELLORS
Yudhishtira noted that it was difficult for one to perform even a minor work on his own. How could hence a king (raja) function without associates and assistants (sahayas) of the calibre of dynamic social leaders (purushas), he asked Bhishma. What should be the noble character (sheela) and trained conduct (samachara) that the secretary (sachiva) of the king (raja), possess? In whom should the king trust and in whom not, he asked Bhishma (80-1, 2). Yudhishtira was referring to this official not as minister (mantri) or head of a bureau or secretary of state (amatya) but as secretary (sachiva). He seems to have visualised a scheme of administration as outlined by the Indra school of political thought.
Bhishma told Yudhishtira who had the status of a king (rajan) that the friends (mitras) of the king could be classified into four typessahartha, bhajamana, sahaja and krtrima. Besides these there was a fifth type of friend who was deeply devoted to dharma (was a dharmatma). He settled issues as an official in charge of dharma (as a dharmastha) impartially but in favour of one who was on the side of dharma. Bhishma implied that the support of the fifth type was highly valuable to a king, who always stood for dharma (ethics, morality and justice).
He advised that a king should not exhibit (prakasa) to the dharmatma any economic issue (artha) that was not to his taste. For, a king (raja) who followed the course of a conqueror (vijigishu) went along both paths, just (dharma) and not just (adharma), Bhishma explained. (80-3 to 5) A friend of this fifth type was not indifferent (udasina). He was positively on the side of high moral values. He would not approve of a king embarking on conquests for no conquest could be characterised as being purely dharmavijaya. It had a content of economic benefit to the conqueror and loss to the defeated.
Of the four types of friends taken note of by earlier political thinkers, bhajamana and sahaja were the best. The king should always entertain doubts about the other two, sahartha and krtrima. On the tasks directly under the king all the four types had to be kept out as being suspect. (80-6) Sahartha was ones ally in a common politico-economic (artha) endeavour while krtrima had been bought as an ally through munificent gifts and aid. Bhajamana belonged to a group traditionally allied to the kings family. Sahaja was a friend of the king since birth.Bhishma would however not trust any of them. But the king should not neglect to protect his allies, for a king who neglected the friends would be censured by the people (loka), social world of commoners among whom he moved. (80-7)
Bhishma pointed out that an impious man might later become pious (sadhu) and a pious person might turn bad. Similarly an enemy (ari) might become a friend (mitra) and a friend might become corrupt and fallen. The thought and intent (chittam) of a dynamic social leader (purusha) appointed to look after a work was never constant (anitya). Hence none should have total faith in others, he cautioned. The king should keep under his direct charge the execution of the important tasks (karya), Bhishma advised. (80-8, 9) But he did not refute the theorem that no king would be able to succeed if he had no associates (sahayas). He did not trust any one for all times. His king personally looked after the execution of the important works and allowed his associates and friends to deal with the minor ones.
Keeping faith in only one person would lead to the destruction of both gains dharma and artha, Bhishma warned. Distrusting every one would lead to a disaster worse than death (mrtyu, insentience). The king had to trust some persons but not depend totally on any one person (80-10).
Bhishma compared the faith to be placed in others to untimely death (akalamrtyu). That faith might collapse any time and the person who trusted them would get derailed and harmed (vipatya). One has to live as desired by the person in whom he trusts, Bhishma cautions. The king would lose his independence if he trusted others fully and depended on them whether they were associates or friends (80-11). Hence the king should trust some and at the same time have doubts about them. This was the rule mentioned in the traditional manual on policy (niti) about the kings step (gati). (80-12)
Some versions of the epic indicate that Bhishma rejected the postulate that there could be two distinct state sectors (prakrtis), mitra and amitra. Kautilya had advocated the concept of eight state sectors (prakrtis), charismatic leader and head of the state (svami), bureaucracy (amatya), rural areas (janapada), fortified capital (durga), treasury (kosa), army (sena), friend (mitra) and non-friend (amitra). But Bhishma would follow the concept that one who was helped became a friend (mitra) and who was harmed became an enemy (ari).
He would draw attention to how man tended to change his approach to other men. A free man (nara) who had parted company with his family, clan and community might desire in a moment of disenchantment the death of a person (manushya) who continued to be a part of the clan and community and the commonalty. But after the death of the latter the free man (nara) might desire that the latter should not have died and pray for his return to life. Mans attitude towards others is subject to change depending on the new developments.
A king should be ever alert about the person who was expected to succeed him as king after his death or take over his wealth (artha). Such a person was said to be an amitra, one who was not a friend. The term, amitra, is often translated as satru, an enemy. One who did not want to collaborate even for a mutually beneficial purpose was termed as amitra. The rights of each to his field (kshetra) have to be honoured and yet it should not affect adversely the field of the other. A neighbour who does not co-operate is a non-friend (amitra). Bhishma was not dwelling on inter-state relations while explaining this concept. (80-13 to 15)
One who was not satisfied with the increase in his kings wealth and power and was saddened with their decline was said to be a good friend (uttama mitra). The king was asked to trust the person who too would fall when he fell and treat him as equal to his retired father (pitr) who sought his sons welfare without expecting anything in return. The king and his friend depended on each other even as a father and his son did. (80-16, 17)
Bhishma asked the flourishing and powerful king to ensure the all-round development of his friend (mitra). He should not try to gain power and wealth only for himself and neglect the interests of his subordinate ally. For, that ally always saved him from decline caused by his dharma project (karma). Bhishma implied that the king should recognize that his ally had propped him up with material requirements (artha) while the former was engaged in social welfare projects and hence deserved to be rewarded in every way. (80-18)
The fear that overtakes the friend as the king faces decline is the sign of his being a true friend. One who desired the decline of the king was considered by the smrtis (sastras of the past that are still remembered) to be an enemy (ari). (80-19) One who became anxious as the king suffered ailments (vyasana), that is, the organs of his state failed to function smoothly and did not grieve as the king flourished was a true friend. Such a friend (mitra) was said to be equal to the kings self (atma). In other words, the king should treat him on par with him and trust him fully. (80-20) But even such a friend was not eligible to be appointed by the king as his Prime Minister.
The person to be nominated as the kings representative or spokesman should be handsome, have a good voice, be patient and non-envious. He should have been born in a good family (to be precise, have graduated from a prestigious academy, kula) and of good character (sheela). Bhishma did not present him as the Prime Minister or as personal secretary. He visualised that there would be no difference between this representative and the king in approach and that the trusted lieutenant would be able to influence the audience in the kings favour. Bhishma rejected the view that the king was to be a charismatic personage while his ministers and officials were to be tough bureaucrats. He would uphold the view that the minister should be the kings alter ego. (80-21)
This representative had to be an expert, have good memory and be alert by nature and not harass the free men (nrs) who worked for the state in the army, police, administration and other bodies. The trusted friend should have been in charge of the department of vigilance. He should accept stoically both praise and blame, without any ill-feeling (80-22).
The king should place such a person whether he was a vigilance officer (Rtvig) or a teacher (acarya) or an intimate friend (mitra) in charge of his domestic (grha) affairs with the rank of an amatya (which was lower than that of a minister, mantri). He should be made to reside in the kings palace and given special respect (80-23). While the confidante who appeared before the public was a charismatic personage, the one who was at hand to guide the king was a scholar and stoic.
This official, an amatya, had a status lower than those of the political guide (Rajapurohita) and the Prime Minister (Pradhana Mantri) but still he received high respect. He was eligible to know the kings highly confidential counsel about the politico-economic and socio-cultural departments (arthaprakrtis and dharmaprakrtis) of his state. The king should trust him even as he trusted his father. Obviously this official was elder to the king in age (80-24). The king was expected to discuss with this versatile amatya how he should deal with these bureaus. He was not a family priest or a teacher or a personal friend staying with the king. He was an experienced administrator who knew how to deal with the different departments.
Bhishma advised that every task (karya) should be assigned to one official only and not to a committee of two or more persons. For, there would be no tolerance among them. Differences would constantly arise among 'bhutas, discrete individuals, he pointed out (80-25). The term, bhutas was used to refer to the individuals on the social periphery who did not function as an organised group or clan or cadre with shared orientations. Every one of them carried out the task assigned to him by the charismatic leader (isa). But the one person to be entrusted with a given task should value the importance of personal fame. He should stay within the time limit given to him. Such a capable person would not entertain hatred for others and would not indulge in acts destructive of material gains (anartha) (26).
One who does not give up encouragement to and formation of dharma activities by coming under the influence of lust or fear or greed or rage and is alert (daksha) and speaks only what is necessary is suitable to be appointed as the person reflecting the kings personal traits (prati antara, alter ego). It may be noted that Bhishma does not designate him as Pradhana Mantri or Pradhana Sachiva. (27)
The candidate should belong to a noble academy (kula), have good character (sheela), be steadfast, free from self-praise, valorous, dignified (arya), be a scholar (vidvan) and be an expert in understanding the alternative views. Such a person has to be appointed as an amatya. He should be appointed to carry out all the duties of the king. He should be honoured and treated as having a share in the achievements (samvibhakta) of the king. He was a good associate (sahaya) and follower (anushtita) of the king (80-28, 29)
This associate was an amatya, a respected executive and not a mantri who was a minister and counsellor. He was to be appointed to the task (karma) that reflected the trained product (krtsna) that he was and given freedom necessary to carry out major tasks in such a way that it would raise the kings stature (80-30). Such executives always engaged in friendly competition in carrying out their duties (karma). They also practised mutual consultation for completing the economic (artha) projects. Bhishma however did not appoint more than one person for any given task. (80-31) It may be remarked here that Bhishma was not as perfect as Kautilya was in formation of an impersonal bureaucratic machinery of amatyas.
Yudhishtira wanted to know how he should treat his kinsmen while performing his duties as a king. Bhishma advised him to fear the jnatis as one would dread the official, Mrtyu (death, in common parlance). The term, bandhu, referred to ones brethren while, jnati referred to the brethren of ones wife. A subsidiary king (uparaja) cannot bear the increase in the influence of his master and king (raja). Similarly the jnati cannot bear the increase in the influence of the king. None except a jnati would welcome destruction of a soft, good-natured, liberal, modest and honest king, Bhishma said. (80-32, 33)
But those kings who did not have jnatis or other kinsmen, too did not have happiness and comfort (sukham). A social leader (purusha) who lived in the midst of persons who were not jnatis was prone to be pressurised by others, Bhishma said, bringing out the kings dilemma (80-34). It was not as though a leader would be able to forge ahead unrestrained if he kept out pressure groups like jnatis.
One who functioned as a free man and not as a member of a clan or community was referred to as a nara. Such naras manned the lower ranks of the army, the police and the bureaucracy. When he is made inactive (nikrta) by others as he comes out of his home and the company of his brethren, it is the jnatis who extend him support. Hence it is not sound or advantageous to keep them out totally. If an outsider censured him, his jnatis would not tolerate it, Bhishma pointed out, drawing attention to the advantages as well as disadvantages in maintaining good relations with the jnatis (80-35). The nara had cut off his relations with his parents and brothers while a commoner (manushya) retained his loyalty to them. The king had to function like a nara and not like a commoner.
In the case of brethren (bandhus) such restraint on one of them is treated as a restraint on all of them. It may be seen as a favourable trait (guna) as well as an unfavourable one (nirguna). For, a member of this fraternal oligarchy would not be free to act without the consent of his brethren. Yudhishtiras plight was such. Ones jnati (wifes kinsman) neither favours him nor respects him. Among the class of jnatis both types were seen, pious and impious, Bhishma pointed out to him. He neither discouraged nor defended dependence on jnatis (36, 37).
The king should by both word and deed always honour and worship his kinsmen (bandhus). He should do what pleases them and refrain from doing what does not please them. He should however not trust them but yet pretend to trust them. There were faults as well as good points in them. They were obvious and need not be proved, Bhishma said. He was advising Yudhishtira in the presence of his brothers. (38, 39)
A social leader (purusha) who does not ignore the importance of this aspect and conducts himself as the situation calls for would please even a non-friend (amitra) by his conduct and the latter would conduct himself like a friend (mitra) towards that leader (80-40). In Bhishmas view, a purusha led others and did not allow them to pressurise him and hence non-friends too became his allies. One who conducted himself so in the circle (mandala) of jnatis (wifes kinsmen), sambandhis, mitras, amitras and madhyasthas would be always successful (80-41).
In the Kautilyan circle of states (mandala), the king had to take into account the presence of a neighbour who was his natural enemy (ari), that enemys enemy who was hence the kings friend (mitra), the king whose state was located between these two and hence remained neutral (madhyastha) and the distant and indifferent but strong ruler (udasina). Bhishma was presenting a domestic circlethe kings wifes kinsmen (jnatis), his own brethren (sambandhis), his friends (mitras), those persons who were not his friends (amitras) and those who were none of these and could be depended on to be intermediaries (madhyasthas) when required.
Protection of his associates including his kinsmen was the first duty of the king. The next was to protect the officials and the employees (naras) of the state who helped to create for him more wealth (artha). These naras had parted company with their clans and placed their services at the disposal of the state but retained the right to withdraw their services if they were not pleased with the treatment given to them. Unlike the free men (naras) members of clans and communities did not need state protection.
Bhishma said that sometimes an amatya (bhrta) of that official or some other employee. The king should hear the report in secret and protect that employee whose life might be in danger from that amatya. The royal treasury was being protected by its officer. All those who harmed it would gang together and destroy him if he was not protected, Bhishma cautioned. might swindle the state treasury and this might be brought to the notice of the king by an employee
In this connection he narrated an episode veering round Kalakavrkshi. This scholar pretending to have been informed of their deeds by a crow sitting on a tree made the officials of the officials of Kosala who used to swindle its treasury, accept their crimes. He reported this to its soft and simple king, Kshemadarsi who looked after the welfare of all. Kalakavrkshis father had been a friend of Kshemadarsis father. Kshemadarsi was grateful to Kalakavrkshi and requested him to be his Rajapurohita.
Kshemadarsi had come to be in possession of his state (rajyam) by chance (to be precise, by the desire of the disinterested section of thinkers, (yadrichcha). He had seen both good days and bad ones. But it would not be proper for him to allow the state to be at the mercy of the institution of amatyas, bureaucracy. The return of that scholar and jurist (Brahmana) brought joy to the royal family. He helped Kshemadarsi to bring all the agricultural lands (mahi) under one umbrella. He enabled the king to go out on his campaign of conquests. The Rajapurohita was needed to keep in check the bureaucracy that was headed by the amatyas. (Santiparva Ch.82)
SELECTION OF MINISTERS AND
FORMATION OF MINISTRY
Yudhishtira requested Bhishma to state what traits were expected in the members of the assembly (sabha),associates (sahayas) of the king, his friends and well-wishers (suhrda), members of his retinue and guards (parichhada) and the executives who were heads of bureaus (amatyas). (83-1)
Bhishma said that the members of the assembly should be modest, speak the truth, be upright and be able to report the events in an orderly manner. He does not appear to treat the sabha as a consultative body or a legislative body or a body discussing social laws (dharma) or economic affairs (vyavahara). It was a body of representatives who reported to the king in the presence of all what was happening in the capital and in the rural areas and elsewhere. Paurajanapada as envisaged by Bhishma was a single body rather than two bodies; one looking after the interests of the citizens of the capital and the other those of the people of the rural areas.
The members of the sabha were not flunkeys carrying tales to him or persons narrating interesting fables. This body seems to have been modelled on the samiti, council of one thousand observers (chakshus) who guided Indra, the head of the house of nobles (2). The members of this assembly would have been neither privileged nobles nor representatives of the commonalty nor scholars nor experts. They would have been upright persons who would speak out when permitted. They had no constitutional powers unlike the members of the traditional sabha and samiti.
Bhishma said that the king should desire to have as his associates (sahayas, who were respectable persons and functioned as amatyas), great warriors and intellectuals (Brahmanas, jurists) and persons who were satisfied and happy and were highly enthusiastic in work (karma) needed to be executed for meeting any emergency (apad). (83-4) Bhishma did not envisage this group as an alternative to the judiciary or the army or to the institution of bureaucracy. They were not counsellors (mantris) or executives (amatyas). They did not have personal ambitions or interests. But they were enthusiastic in helping the king to get his projects completed. They were men who had high social status and would come to his rescue whenever required. They were members of the rajaprakrti. Kautilyan Arthasastra called them sahayasampada and treated them as belonging to the kings party (svapaksha).
The kings friends should belong to noble families (kula), be always honoured and not keep their talents concealed. They should follow him whether he was pleased or not, was afflicted with difficulties or was in a comfortable position and become desired by the king and conduct themselves as desired by him (83-5). They were however not flunkeys. They were not to be opportunists or a pressure group. They gave their best to the king. They had their own political strength which they would place at his disposal readily, freely and fully. Bhishma however would not like the king to be dependent on persons belonging to the lower classes of the society.
Kautilya enumerated seven organs of the stateking (raja), bureaucracy (amatyam), rural hinterland (janapada), fortified capital (durga), treasury (kosa), army (sena) and ally (mitra). The last was a political ally in inter-state relations and an independent king who guaranteed that the sovereignty of the king over his state was respected by all members of the circle of states (mandala). He did not interfere in the internal affairs of that state. Every one of the above seven sectors had to function in a rational manner and in conjunction and without meddling in the affairs of others. Bhishmas mitras were members of the Rajaprakrti and were not independent kings. Bhishmas political theory does not seem to be based on such rationalism as Kautilyas that drew its sustenance from samkhya dialectics.
According to Bhishma, the king would have around him (as personal guards and retinue, parichhada) persons belonging to noble families (kulina) and born in the country (desa, rural areas in particular). They should be intellectuals and should have studied several subjects and be handsome, fearless and devoted to him. (83-6) He expected them to have charismatic influence and approaches identical with the kings. He does not seem to have included the General (senapati) in that group. It was a group intended to win over the people of the rural areas and not one that would drive a sense of fear in their minds or coerce them to surrender what the king demanded. These persons were heads of prominent clans of the rural areas and were natives of the janapada. They were not from the city. But they were men with a broad outlook and they and the king thought alike.
Bhishma warned that persons belonging to families guilty of malpractices and those who were greedy and harassed the (free) men (naras) who were serving the state in different capacities in the rural areas and who no longer owed allegiance to and support of their clans and communities were not to be included in this group. For, they were not ashamed to do evil deeds and would serve the king only if and as long as they were able to gain illicit benefits by keeping company with him. Bhishma warned the king against such opportunists. (83-7)
Only one who was born in a noble family (to be precise, was a graduate from a prestigious academy, kula) and had good character (sheela) and was discreet and liberal was to be appointed as minister (mantri). He should be interested in getting the projects (karya) of his employer (bhartru) executed smoothly. The king should appoint such an experienced person as a minister (mantri) in charge of all economic affairs (artha). Bhishma recommended that it should be a permanent tenure. This minister was not one promoted from the cadre of amatyas. [Kautilya insisted that the ministers should be selected from among the senior amatyas.]
He must have proved his worth under his earlier master and hence was invited to join the kings team with the offer that he would be in charge of all economic affairs. [Kautilya did not favour such direct appointments or appointment of persons who had been serving other rulers.] It was not necessary to place him on probation, according to Bhishma. [Kautilya would not appoint any one on permanent tenure. All appointees were placed on probation.] (83-8)
The king would endow on his favourite minister wealth, status, respect and different luxury items. He should be treated as one sharing the comforts of the king, for the king treated him as the base of his wealth (arthabhaja) (63-9). The minister so appointed should have been one whose earlier vocation (vitta) had not been broken, that is, he must not have been discharged from service by his earlier master for lapses. He had to be a scholar and one engaged in an economic pursuit (vrtti) and committed (vrata) to a disciplined life (charitra). He should be required to always depend on the king for his economic (artha) needs. Bhishma would not suggest appointing a person who had a successful business of his own or had his own property that would result in his withdrawing his services at any time. The appointee should be bound by the laws of truth (as a satyavadi). Such a person would neverleave the kings service, Bhishma said. (83-10)
The king should be on guard against persons who were not Aryas. The term, Arya, referred to a free person who enjoyed the right to personal property and had taken the pledge (vrata) to abide by truth (satya) and non-violence (ahimsa). Bhishma wanted the minister for economic affairs to be from the class of Vaisyas (Aryas). The king should be on guard against dullards who did not know the code of ethics (samaya) prescribed and did not adhere to their pledge of loyalty (11).
Bhishma pointed out that if the king had to choose between appointing one person to the post of minister in charge of all economic affairs and a group, gana, of individuals, he should not prefer to have one person rather than a group. He would prefer decisions being taken by a group where no individual would be able to overrule others. But it did not guarantee that the decision taken by the group was the best one.
If the lone minister was superior in traits to many, Bhishma would advise the king who desired to embark on a particular venture to prefer that individual and give up depending on the group (gana). (83-12) Bhishma felt that while an individual might be able to give momentum to a project, groups or committees would not be able to do so. He however accepted that oligarchy (ganarajya) was preferable to governance by one. But he found that there could be an individual who could provide a far better leadership than oligarchy could.
Bhishma then enumerated the traits expected in a respectable (sreya) person. His valour had to be obvious in his deeds. He had to give primacy to fame and be firm in his commitment to the code of ethics (samaya). He should honour the persons who had the competence (samarthya) to complete the task. He should not compete with those who were not to be competed with. Bhishma expected him to bridle his ambition and not to offend his equals and superiors. He should not deviate from dharma, coming under the influence of lust or fear or rage or greed.
He should not stand on prestige. He should adhere to truth and be sober and sedate and be one who had conquered himself (jitatma). He must have received public honours (mana) and been tested with respect to all conditions (gone through all the four tests, dharma, artha, kama and bhaya). Such a person might be appointed as an associate minister (mantrasahaya). Bhishma does not seem to give him independent charge of any ministry. He seems to be assisting others in tapping the talents of other officials. (83-13 to 15)
Bhishma added that birth in a noble family, to be precise, graduating from a prestigious academy, kula, and maintaining relations with that academy, steadfastness, alertness in work, conscientiousness (atmavan), valour, gratitude and adherence to truth were traits of respectability (83-16). A dynamic social leader (purusha) who knew how to behave properly would please even one who was not a friend (amitra) and make him a friend (mitra), Bhishma repeated (83-17).
Bhishma was advising Yudhishtira, Partha, a descendant of Prthu, the agrarian king, on the traits that he should expect in the persons associated with him as ministers etc. As the ruler of agrarian terrains (bhumipa) who desired to have agricultural wealth (bhuti) and was a disciplined person (samyatatma) and who had a properly trained awareness (krtaprajna), he should examine the good and bad features in the officials (amatyas) while appointing and promoting them, Bhishma said (83-18).
The persons selected by him should have come in contact with him earlier, that is, should not be strangers to him. These dynamic leaders (purushas) should have been close to him (apta) and belong to higher communities (abhijata) and be natives of his country (svadesa). Bhishma was clarifying the statements he had made earlier. He would not recommend persons who were city-based for being appointed in rural areas. Similarly aliens and persons of lower social status were not to be appointed to assist the king of the predominantly agrarian and rural state. The selected person should not have been guilty of moral turpitude and should have been tested in all aspects (dharma, artha, kama and bhaya) (19).
The term, abhicara, leads to the insistence that the selected candidate must have been born to a woman who could not be faulted. He should not be a bastard. He should follow the Vedas (Srutis), that is, he should not be a heretic. He should have roots (mula) in a family connected with state affairs and should be not totally self-made (ahamkrta). He should have inherited wealth and not been one depending solely on his personal earnings. Bhishma attached importance to the status of the family of the amatya. The social leader (purusha) who desired to have agricultural wealth (bhuti) should honour such persons with a higher status. (83-20)
The king was advised to select a candidate who was one with high intellect (buddhi) and at the same time was humble (vinaya). He should have lustre (ojas) and charisma (tejas), valour, endurance, purity and identification (anuraga) with his purpose, constancy and steadfastness (83-21). His traits should have been tested. He should be always sagacious and free from deception. The king was advised to appoint five such officials to be in charge of economic affairs (83-22). They would have been of the rank of amatyas.
Bhishma must have envisaged a board of five members formulating the economic policy of the state and execute it. They should have the ability necessary to express their views boldly and to master every issue. They must have been graduates from a high academy (kula) and have the trait of gentleness (sattva), be discreet and forthcoming (not hesitant). They would not have been Kshatriyas. The latter were noted for aggressiveness (rajas) or Shudras who were illiterate and ignorant (tamas). They should know the rules applicable to different areas (desa) and times (kala) and be interested in what benefited the projects (karya) of their employer (bhartru).
While the amatyas were executives, the minister (mantri) appointed by the king to be in charge of all economic affairs had to be one with knowledge of all the regions of the empire. The relation between him and the king was one between an employee and an employer. Bharata seems to have followed this policy. (23, 24)
Bhishma did not approve appointing as an executive (amatya) or a minister (mantri) one who did not have a high social status. He warned the king that one who was attached to a person of low status and poor influence (heenateja) would not get established in a constructive system. This attachment would certainly create doubts about every work done by him (83-25).
At the same time a minister who belonged to a higher social stratum (abhijana) but whose knowledge of the Vedic codes was poor would not be able to examine and give counsel though he had the qualification of having the correct approach in all the three fields, dharma, artha and kama. (83-26) It was not enough to have belonged to a liberal aristocracy or to have studied all the three sciences. It was necessary to have a correct grasp of the tradition as set forth in the Vedas after experiences that straddled several centuries.
In the janapada which was an essentially agro-pastoral society, there were sharp status distinctions. The higher ranks were referred to as abhijana and the officials were drawn from among them. Before the paura-janapada, durga-rashtra, pura-desa dichotomy got instituted, the urban-rural cleavage was reflected in the nobles-commoners, deva-manushya dichotomy. The commoners were organized as clans (kulas) and communities (jatis). The communities which had a higher status were depended on for providing men (vishti) who could execute the minor works.
Bhishma pointed out that persons not born in higher communities would not be able to execute major works. Only the higher communities could provide the leadership and the insight necessary for these works. (83-27) He did not deny the lower communities the right to higher education but he felt that this right alone was not adequate to enable them to embark on major ventures.
Only determination and persistence would lead to progress, Yudhishtira should know. Those who were not consistent in their resolve (samkalpa) even if they were intelligent and knew the codes of procedure would not be able to complete the project though they might be given more time (83-28). The lower ranks were inert though among them some were not ignorant. Bhishma called for a rational appraisal of the capabilities and drawbacks of the different social strata. The recruits to the officialdom who were not intelligent and did not have the knowledge of the Vedas (which were a compendium of the experiences of the peoples of the earlier times and suggested laws and principles that could be applied for all times) could not achieve the results only by taking up the (new) assignment (karma) as a challenge. They required training on the features of the special tasks but this training and acquaintance often proved futile, Bhishma pointed out. (83-29)
The king and the minister should have identical orientations (anuraga). It does not mean that the minister should be a loyal and humble servant of the king. Bhishma said that it was not advantageous to trust a minister who did not have an outlook similar to the kings. The king should not share his counsel (mantram) with such a minister (mantri) (83-30). For a disloyal minister would along with his colleagues harass the king.
Often the king had been forced to accept a team of ministers who had been in their posts even before he became king or had succeeded to their posts on the retirement of their fathers. Or they might have been appointed by the house of nobles. Bhishma warned that ministers who did not have ideological and personal affinities with the king might rouse the people against him. (83-31)
The svami who was a charismatic leader and head of the state might get angry sometimes with an official and remove him from the post and shout at him but later get pleased with him. The official should bear with him it is implied (32).
Unlike the svami who followed no political code and hired and fired at will officials and ministers, the rajan who had inherited his post could not remove the ministers who too had inherited their posts. He could only redistribute the duties among them. Only a minister who had personal affinity to the king would bear such humiliation as the svami inflicted on his subordinates. Bhishma warned the king that the rage of a minister who had no affinity for the king and felt offended would be explosive and ferocious (83-33).
The official or employee who desired to please the employer (bhrtru) and tolerated the outbursts of the latter was one who treated the kings joys and sorrows as his own. Such an official was not a subject (praja) of the king. He was a citizen of the world, a manava, who had on his own placed his services at the disposal of the king and could walk out any time. It was only out of ideological affinity he had consented to execute the kings projects. Bhishma says that with such a manava, free citizen of the world rather than a subject of the state, the king should have consultations on all economic (artha) issues. That manava would give him the correct advice without bringing his personal interests to bear on it (83-34). These manavas were like Bhishma followers of the Arthasastra of Pracetas Manu.
One who had affinity to the ruler and had other desired traits too and had wide knowledge (prajnanam) but was not a free man (anr), that is, not one who could act independent of his clan or community, was not eligible to be confided in by the king with his counsel (83-35). Bhishma also warned Yudhishtira against one who was associated with an amitra who was not a friend of the king and who did not have much regard for the influential residents of the capital (paura) and was known to be viewed as one who was not a well-wisher (asuhrta) of the king. Such a person did not deserve to be trusted by the king with his counsel. One who was not a scholar and was impure, obstinate and served the enemy (satru) and talked incoherently and was given to rage or greed was not a well-wisher of the king and was hence not to be trusted with his counsel (mantram). (36, 37)
Bhishma was against appointing raw hands to the posts of ministers though they were loyal, had studied several works and were well-trained (satkrta) and had given all the shares due to the state (samvibhakta) (83-38). Did Bhishma envisage a system of purchase of tenures similar to the medieval practices or is this note a later interpolation? One whose father had been discharged from service unceremoniously for deviating from social and state laws (dharma) and who had been installed in his fathers post with due respect was not to be trusted with counsel. He might take revenge for his fathers dismissal (83-39).
One though he was a well-wisher (suhrta) of the king but had been removed from service for poor performance should not be considered as eligible for being appointed as a counsellor (mantri) even if he had other desirable traits (83-40).
Bhishma said that one who had been trained to be aware of all things around him (prajna) and was an expert (medhavi) and an intellectual and was pure and was a native of the janapada and was found faultless when tested with respect to all duties (karma) was suitable for being appointed as a counsellor (mantri) (83-41) This native of the janapada looked after its administration.
The minister should have acquired all the accumulated knowledge (jnana) and gained further knowledge (Vijnana) through extrapolation of that knowledge. He should know the traits of the kings state sectors (prakrti) and also those of his opponents. He should be a friend and well-wisher (suhrta) and have a status equal to that of the king. Such a person might be consulted as a minister (though not appointed as a minister and made answerable to the king) (83-42). This minister in charge of foreign affairs and defence had a status equal to that of the king. He could use dialectical methods to know more things than the other scholars had known.
One who always spoke the truth and had a good character and was dignified and imposing (gambhira) and yet modest and soft and had been associated with the kings father and grandfather was fit to be a counsellormantri) (83-43). Bhishma highly valued this traditional attachment to the throne. The minister should be one who was contented and had been accepted by the pious and was an adherent of truth and was also a warrior. He should be one detesting sin. He should know the principles of counselling (mantravid) and pay attention to the needs of the times. He was not to be a mere theoretician pronouncing what was ethical and what was not. He should be a pragmatist and flexible in approach rather than dogmatic. (83-44)
The chief of the free men (nrpa) who wants to use coercive power (danda) (in accordance with the provisions of dandaniti as the head of the police force and as an administrator rather than as a sovereign ruler) should appoint as his counsellor (mantri) one who would help him to bring and keep under his charge all the social cadres (lokas). The counsellor should have the ability to go beyond the jurisdiction the nrpa had. The civil administrator who ordinarily looked after the rural areas as he was the chief of the local police and militia too, sought to control the capital where the aristocrats stayed and the forests around the villages. The industries were located in the forests. The minister should be able to guide him in extending his influence and authority. (83-45)
Rajadharma amended the earlier quazi-feudal system where the kings and the ministers belonged to parallel lineages which were however dependent on each other. The higher classes of the new expanded state stationed in the capital, pura, enjoyed certain privileges and immunities that were not available to the commoners who resided in the rural areas, janapada. The king, 'raja, was stationed in the capital while the nrpa administered the rural areas. The army and the fort were under the king while the police and the rural militia were directed by the nrpa.
Bhishma wanted both the residents of the city (paura) and those born in the rural areas (janapada) to have faith in the new state laws (dharma). The minister who commanded the confidence of both should be a warrior who had led the troops in battles and also knew the policy (naya) that was advantageous to and was determined by the commoners (manushyas). Bhishma did not envisage a military government. But he wanted the army to provide a capable person to implement the policy determined by the civilian administration of both the urban (pura) and rural areas (rashtra). Such a person should be appointed as minister and his counsel heard by the head of the paura-janapada, the king. (83-46)
Bhishma told Yudhishtira that persons who had all the desired traits (gunas) mentioned above and were well-worshipped and knew the traits and features and levels of efficiency of the different state sectors (prakrtis) should be appointed as ministers (mantris). Every state should have three such ministers. They determined state policy and were distinct from the five ministers in charge of economic affairs. They had to watch the weaknesses (chhidra) in the state sectors (prakrtis, angas) and also the weaknesses in the sectors of the state of the other (para), that is, of the inimical ruler. For, the development of the nation (rashtram) of the king (raja) had for its root (mula) the counsel given by the ministers (mantris). (83-47, 48)
Bhishma seems to have retained the term, desa, to indicate the rural areas or hinterland governed from the city and rajya to indicate the five internal sectors (prakrtis) controlled by the king (raja). These were bureaucracy (amatyam), rural administration (janapada), urban administration (paura), treasury (kosa) and army (sena). Rashtra was not envisaged as an ethnic or cultural entity.
When the small state of the ruler developed with the help of the ministers into a coherent politico-economic structure that could not be breached by other rulers, it became a rashtra, an independent political entity with its sovereignty acknowledged by other rulers.
The king should ensure that the weaknesses of his state organs (angas) were not observed by the enemy while he was able to know those of his opponent (para). The shell of the turtle protects its organs which it draws in when threatened. So too the king had to protect the organs of his state. The counsel given by the ministers serve as the shield that protects the (seven) organs of the state of which the king too is one. He should always keep to himself the counsel given by them and the knowledge of the weaknesses. (83-49)
Those ministers who kept the counsel (mantram) about the state (rajyam) secret to themselves were described as manishinas. These thinkers were the kings confidantes. The institution of ministry functioned as a protective cover for the king. The expanding state brought into its fold the natives of other areas (itara jana), especially of the industrial areas of the forests and mountains. They were not part of the agro-pastoral core population that was native to the janapada.
While the kings jurisdiction was limited to the city (pura) and the predominantly rural areas which were governed by him with the help of the parthiva and the narapati, the other sections that were included in the expanding state were placed under the jurisdiction of the ministers. The ministry thus played a significant role in administering the new areas amalgamated into the state (rajyam or paura-janapada).
The state (rajyam) ruled by the king (raja) expanded with the help of the counsel given by statesmen (manishinas) by bringing the other areas under its ambit and the distinction between natives (jana) and others (itara jana) waned. Rajyam grew into a rashtram. The ministers looking after the new areas had to be of the calibre of manishinas who knew the psyche of the people. (83-50)
The sovereignty and identity of the state was ensured by the institution of observers and envoys (pranidhis) who functioned on its behalf beyond its borders. Their report went to form the essence of the counsel given by the ministers, according to scholars who had wide knowledge. They held that ministers (mantris) who had counselling (mantram) as their vocation (vrtti) (providing their livelihood, artha) followed the wishes of their master (svami). They served the svami whose political structure did not give them a place either in the svamiprakrti or in the amatyaprakrti. They were consulted when necessary and paid the sum contracted.
Bhishma implied that the institution of ministry under a non-monarchic structure could not be as sagacious as the one under monarchy, for the ministers treated their vocation as a business and would give the counsel that would please the master (svami). Bhishma had reservations about such non-monarchic states (51).
The ruler should engage in deliberations with ministers who were free from anger and rage and maintained their self-respect and were attached (ishya) to him. He should always consult those ministers who had overcome the five weaknesses (83-52). These should mean the weaknesses afflicting the five units of the state, bureaucracy, urban administration, rural administration, treasury and army. The three ministers in charge of political affairs were meant. He should first consult them individually and after deliberating on their recommendations he should decide (chittam) the best policy to be adopted. At the cabinet meeting fixed for deliberation (mantaram) he should present their views and the stand he had decided on (83-53). It was obligatory for the king to consult the cabinet committee of three ministers but it was not mandatory for him to accept even their unanimous recommendation.
Bhishma told Yudhishtira that the scholars who knew how to arrive at a decision on the import (artha) of the principle (tattva) of deliberations to seek counsel (mantra) held that the procedure for seeking counsel should always follow the above method. The counsel thus obtained would always be able to bring together all the subjects (prajas) of the state (83-55). Because diverse view-points were allowed to be expressed and were taken into account before a legally valid decision was taken and acted on, the king could take all the subjects along with him. In other words, he could not and did not act on his own. But his sovereign authority was not compromised. The above picture clarifies that Bhishma envisaged a state that followed all legal and constitutional provisions and gave very little leeway to the king to function arbitrarily or even exercise powers of discretion. Such deliberations had to be held at places where no undesirable person could overhear or eaves-drop. Secrecy of deliberations would be maintained. (56, 57)
COMPOSITION AND FUNCTIONS OF
THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS
Bhishma then narrated to Yudhishtira a conversation between Sakra Indra and Brhaspati. Sakra Indra wanted to know the one step (ekapada) that would enable the dynamic social leader (purusha) who had a disciplined (samyag) conduct (acharana) to win over all the discrete individuals (sarva bhuta) and become great (84-1,2). Brhaspati replied that only a gentle (santva) approach could help a social leader to succeed in winning over all the individuals (bhutas) (especially of the social periphery). This step benefited all the organized social worlds (lokas). One who brought this into practice in his relations with all discrete individuals who were not supported by any social group would be always popular with them. (3, 4)
One who did not speak to others and had crooked brows would be always hated by the discrete individuals (bhutas) for not adopting a soft approach. One who spoke first and with a smile would become popular with the social world (loka) of commoners. (84-5, 6) Brhaspati seems to be commenting on the failure of one of the thinkers (kutila?) of his times to win over his audience by opting to be the last to speak and not to lead the discussion. Even gifts offered without soft words would not please the discrete individuals (bhutas), Brhaspati said. Even if one took away from an individual his property but spoke gently and softly he would be able to win over all the social worlds (lokas), Brhaspati told Sakra Indra. (7, 8)
Hence one who wanted to exercise coercive power (danda) should do so in a soft manner. This method is fruitful and does not displease the native people (jana) (of the rural areas), he said. A soft and disciplined approach was the best, according to Brhaspati (84-9, 10). Sakra followed the path suggested by his guide (purodhasa) and benefited. Bhishma advised Yudhishtira to follow such an approach (84-11). A soft approach towards discrete individuals who lacked the support of organized communities and were socially weak would win for the social leader their support and also the support of the organized social worlds, Bhishma pointed out.
He had drawn Yudhishtiras attention to the dialogue between Sakra Indra and Brhaspati who belonged to two distinct schools of political thought. Sakra Indra represented the aristocratic temperament and Brhaspati voiced the commonalty. But both agreed that the ruler should take the initiative and adopt a soft approach to win over all the discrete individuals of the social periphery to be able to command the confidence of the organized social worlds which could survive even in the absence of the state. Bhishma had the status of a king and led the nobles and voiced their views even as Indra did.
Addressing Bhishma as Rajendra, Yudhishtira who was a Partha, descendant of Prthu, who belonged to the agro-pastoral commonalty (prthvi), wanted to know how a Parthiva, a subordinate governor of the rural areas, should govern (palaya) the prajas who were subjects of the king (raja). Besides, not all the subjects (prajas) of the predominantly agrarian region were its natives (jana). These natives would not tolerate excessive use of coercive power (danda), Brhaspati had noted. Effective coercive power could be used only along with a soft approach in collecting levy (bali) from them. (85-1)
Bhishma said that the effectiveness of the governance (palanam) of the subjects (prajas) of the state depended on how pure the conduct of the ruler with respect to economic affairs (vyavahara) was. If he succeeded in maintaining such conduct he would have acquired approval for adhering to (state) laws (dharma) and fame among both social worlds (lokas), commoners and nobles (85-2). Yudhishtira wanted to know how a nrpashould deal with the officials in charge of different economic activities (vyavahara). He told Bhishma that in his view it was not possible to find all the traits enumerated by the latter as expected of a dynamic personage (purusha) in any single person. (85-3,4) Was Bhishma too idealistic? (a ruler of free men who was himself one of them)
Bhishma agreed that rarely one might come across a personage who had all the essential traits (gunas). He would try to present a concise picture of how he could gather around him persons with these rare traits (85-5,6). Bhishmas larger council of ministers would have four Brahmans who were graduates (snatakas) and of pure character and had studied the Vedas and eight Kshatriyas who were strong armed warriors. It would have twenty-one rich Vaisyas from different economic fields and three Shudras who were pure in their previous jobs and were humble and had personal wealth (sri).
It would appear that Bhishma visualised the four Brahmans as members of the judiciary assisting the Parthiva (the governor of the rural areas) and the Nrpa (who was in charge of civil administration and the police in the rural areas). They must have been appointed by the king (raja) directly. [According to Manusmrti, one of them who had studied the Atharvaveda (Brahma) was appointed by the king directly and the other three who had studied the three other Vedas were co-opted by that chief judge.]
The eight Kshatriyas were obviously in charge of the eight divisions of the army, infantry, cavalry, chariots and elephants and the four service divisions, food and clothing, shelter, armoury and medical services. Some versions have mentioned eighteen Kshatriyas, that is, heads of the eighteen bureaus (teerthas). The twenty-one Vaisyas were in charge of economic affairs (vyavahara). Bhishma did not keep out the proletariat but would reward the latter with three posts in the larger council of ministers. As Kautilya has pointed out, Pracetas Manu recommended a ministry of twelve members, Brhaspati one with sixteen members and Usanas one with twenty-four members. Kautilya would be flexible and suggested that the strength of the ministry should depend on the kings ability to manage it.
Bhishma proposed the institution of the post of Suta who would have been well-trained in the eight aspects of the knowledge of chronicles (purana)curiosity, listening, learning, retaining in memory, inferring, removing doubts, learning new things (vijnana) and arriving at a logical conclusion. He was expected to be of fifty years in age. He was expected to know the ancient Vedas (srutis) and also the later codes (sastras, smrtis). He had to be humble and treat all persons and schools on par. He was expected to know the older Vedic laws (sanatana dharma) and also the current Smrti laws (sasvata dharma).
This official had to constantly keep the king informed of the decisions taken by the larger ministry. He should be capable of doing the work necessary to settle economic disputes and should not be covetous. This official too had to be free from the seven faultshunting, gambling, womanising, drinking, physical assault, verbal abuse and destroying the property of others.
Whatever traits were expected in a Suta were to be had also by the eight ministers of the king with whom the king had to engage in deliberations for counsel. Three of the ministers were in charge of political affairs including foreign relations and defence and the other five in charge of economic affairs. (85-7 to 11)
It may be noted that the thirty-seven member council of ministers convened and monitored by the Suta would not have been attended by the king (raja) or the rural governor (parthiva) or the civil administrator (nrpa). Only the cabinet of eight ministers was chaired by the king. One version of the epic suggests that this cabinet had four Brahmans, three Shudras and the Suta. Probably it was the practice in a state where neither political power nor economic power counted.
Whatever was decided at the meeting of the eight-member ministry should be made known to every national (rashtrika) by the king (raja). It is obvious that the thirty-seven member council could be only a forum where the reports about the status of the different activities were submitted and the needs for the future were made known to the king through the Suta. It was not a body that was consulted or whose consent was necessary for any action. It might not have been a body of elected representatives. Its members were selected by the king but its proceedings were not confidential. The deliberations of the cabinet were to be kept secret but the nationals had the right to know what decision it had taken. Bhishma said that the king should always look after the economic affairs (vyavahara) of the subjects (prajas) in this faultless way. (85-12)
Bhishma seems to have made a subtle distinction between subject (praja) of the state and national (rashtrika). The former was subordinate to the king and had to be looked after by the king. There was an economic contract between the two, raja and praja. The prajas had to pay the taxes or fees prescribed to get protected by the king. They had no other rights. Some of them were natives of that country and others were only domiciles who had been permitted to earn their livelihood in that country and stay there and ply their vocation. But the nationals had a right to know what the cabinet had decided and whether what was being implemented was in pursuit of that decision.
Bhishma implied that the king could not act independently and that the cabinet of eight ministers had to be in its place and it had to deliberate on every issue, come to a decision and direct the king to act accordingly. This cabinet had been in existence since the middle Vedic era although the roles, statuses, powers and designations of and ranks from among which its individual members had been drafed changed from time to time. They were known as Adityas and they functioned under Aditi, the benevolent mother-figure and were headed by Indra who controlled the treasury and the army and was also the head of the house of nobles.
It would appear that there was a constituency of nationals (rashtrikas) to whom the king was answerable. According to the Mahadeva constitution, the Prajapati, chief of the people, represented the nation (rashtram) and the state (kshatram) and was superior to the king and the electoral college of rajanyas. He was also superior to Indra and the house of nobles (sabha), Agni and the council of scholars (samiti), Aditya and the army (sena) and Brhaspati and the commonalty who controlled the treasury (sura).
Bhishma warned the king not to appropriate the secret wealth (dravya) for personal use for such appropriation would imperil the project (karya) that he had been empowered to embark on. Misappropriation of that wealth would be treated as adharma, violation of the state laws for which he and his men would be guilty and get into trouble (85-13).These were secret funds of the state. He and other members of his executive were not empowered to draw on them.Bhishma warned that if a king indulged in such act, the nation (rashtram) would distance itself from him even as birds fled from the vulture. It would always drift away from him and his government would be like a ship wrecked in the high seas. (14)
Bhishma implied that no government could claim authority over the wealth that belonged to the nation (rashtram) as a whole. The king should not be under the impression that the nation (rashtram) though entitled to know whether the king was functioning within the framework of (state) laws (dharma) could not punish him or coerce him to step down on charges of misappropriation of funds. The nationals would drift away from him and his sinking government though the nation (rashtra) had no coercive power.
There were different levels of rulers, Maharaja, Raja, Rajendra, Bhupati or Bhumipati or Prthvipati, Parthiva and Nrpati or Narapati. The chief of the agro-pastoral commonalty (bhupati) who while governing the subjects (prajas) of the state deviated from the prescribed procedure and violated the code of conduct would have to entertain fear as he would be turning the nobility (svarga) also against him. The prajas owed loyalty to the king (raja) under whom the bhupati functioned though they resided in the areas that came under the jurisdiction of the bhupati.
These domiciles had constitutional protection and could appeal to the house of nobles (sabha, divam, svarga) who could take action against the chief of that commonalty(bhu, prthvi, manushyas) who failed to honour the provisions of the contract between the prajas and the raja by which the former had consented to obey the latter. There was no such contract between the natives of the region (janapada) and their ruler, janaka or janadhipa. Similarly there was no contract between the rashtrikas, the nationals, of the larger country which had no borders, geographical or ethnic or cultural and had a varied population marked by diversity of occupations and the rajyam, the state headed by the king (raja). The state continued to have a house of nobles which however functioned not as a governing elite but as a body that could be appealed to against misuse of powers by the officials like the raja and the bhupati.
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